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As It Was

by Harry Styles

Although the LinnDrum-esque drum tones might lead you to write off the drums here as a simple two-bar loop, they’re actually quite sensitively programmed, doing an unfussy, workmanlike job of underpinning the section dynamics and maintaining the listener’s attention. There’s the switch from ride to hi-hat that marks the transition to the verses at 0:14 and 1:09, and to the middle section at 2:04, for instance, as well as several understated fills: the open hi-hat variations at the end of most of the eight-bar phrases, as well as the sudden absence of hi-hat at 0:35 and the switch from 16th to eighth notes at the start of verse two (1:09); the kick and snare pattern changes at the end of verse two (1:30), at the end of the middle section (2:15), and at the end of the song (2:36); the powerful snare/toms roundhouse leading into the final choruses (2:17); and that lovely snare roll during the final choruses at 2:28.

The main synth hook is also expertly handled in terms of consolidating its status as a hook. Not only does it both start and end the song, which already guarantees it a certain amount of guaranteed audience recognition value, but it also appears on its own once again at 2:15, leading into the final choruses section. You could also argue that the impact of this third solo hook is intensified by the fact that it constitutes the first two-bar section extension after 11 straight eight-bar units. And, speaking of section lengths, I think the unexpected arrival of the first verse after only three iterations of the drum pattern likewise makes the vocal entry there more attention-grabbing.

One more thought to leave you with. Do you know any other songs where the singer refers to themselves by name within the song lyric proper, as Harry Styles does here at 1:11? Yes, I know hip-hop/R&B artists and producers are forever tediously name-checking themselves at the starts of their tracks. (I’m looking at you Jason Derulo and DJ Khaled! Although to be fair it’s all over the start of The Fugees’ 'Killing Me Softly', so it’s hardly new…) But somehow that feels a lot more artificial than what’s happening in this song. And otherwise I’m struggling to think of any other examples. Mike Skinner’s friend says his name in ‘Don’t Mug Yourself’, and Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney use each other’s names in ‘The Girl Is Mine’, but again it’s not the lead artist using their own name, which would seem to be a much more all-purpose technique. In fact, the only other instance I can immediately think of is Eminem’s ‘My Name Is’. If you can think of any others, do let me know…